Rien ne va plus! So Let’s Start A New Game!

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A conversation between Peter Kruse and Thomas Sattelberger


Peter Kruse and Thomas Sattelberger met in July 2010 in Bonn for a three hour conversation on how the Internet and the speed and scale of its complexity is challenging a huge company like Deutsche Telekom AG. Sattelberger described the change as “a dramatic transformation. While change used to be incremental or step-by-step, change is now something whose intensity and complexity we have no way of anticipating. There’s no textbook or manual you can read to prepare yourself for it.” He agreed with Kruse that network organizations are much more “elastic” in absorbing the pressure for change and scale and much more “responsive” due to the multiplicity of perspectives they contain.


Peter Kruse
… is managing partner of nextpractice GmbH and honorary professor for general and organizational psychology at the University of Bremen. The main focus of his work is on the development of new methods for the promotion and use of collective intelligence and the professionalization of entrepreneurship as a means of building a stabilizing form of culture.

Thomas Sattelberger
… born in 1949, Thomas Sattelberger has been executive director for human resources at Deutsche Telekom AG since 2007. His previous engagements were with Continental AG, Deutsche Lufthansa AG and Daimler Benz AG. His main interests are in strategic planning for human resources, global talent management and international labor costs management.


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we_magazine:
When push and pull-strategies collide, is this the point where the downside of Enterprise 2.0/Web 2.0 becomes tangible?

Sattelberger: When it comes to Enterprise 2.0 I’m always worried about whether people are exploiting themselves. The unconditional way they devote themselves to a particular issue or to the network itself. I have to ask myself how I can avoid becoming autistic and how I can achieve a proper work-life-balance. And how I can build an appropriate framework for the   employees here at Deutsche Telekom. The network model comes most starkly to the forefront in start-up corporate cultures and their dedication to 24/7 availability. In a major corporation like ours we also need to ask how individual staff members are coping with the issue. Can a company dispose of its employees just as it pleases – anytime, anywhere? I don’t think so. For instance, we have introduced an email policy that explicitly states that employees have the right NOT to respond to emails over the weekend.

Kruse: And this leads us on to a really fascinating point. We need to distinguish between two forms of culture that are fundamentally different. On the one hand we’re talking about a push culture in which everything, as it were, has its own hierarchical order and beat. And obviously 24/7 availability is an affront to any company whose culture is based on target agreements, control structures, and a primary focus on management and regulation. Employees are subject to relentless pressure which they have no means of avoiding. So when a company introduces a push culture to operate new media, the outlook becomes very bleak for the people who work there. Because self-motivation is then indirectly turned into self-exploitation – controlled, as it were, from top-down.

Sattelberger: Yes indeed. We talk about Enterprise 2.0 from two quite different perspectives. On the one hand we talk about Enterprise 2.0 in terms of the old corporate logic like availability, control, directives and performance management, and on the other about Enterprise 2.0 as a pull culture – to elaborate on your term – as a kind of laid-back entrepreneurship that’s young, cool, edgy, back to nature and individualistic. These are two completely different worlds which we need to address very seriously as Deutsche Telekom. Because there’s no doubt in my mind that here we are facing a potential downside of Web 2.0.

Kruse: If you live in a corporate culture which is more in line with the old logic than the technical opportunities Web 2.0 offers, you really expose it to the danger of misuse. That’s true enough. And I’m ever so slightly anxious about this because in doing so you run the danger of destroying the positive aspects. And that’s exactly the point where the exploitation critique kicks in. This means that it’s important and absolutely essential for leaders and managers to simply pull their weight in shaping and steering the transition from a push culture to an aspirational, inspirational pull culture.

we_magazine:
How would you rate the risk that “open knowledge” turns people into motivated day laborers handing on their intellectual capital?

Kruse: There’s no risk at all. From the moment I feed intellectual capital into a network I – as an individual – become and remain attractive for this particular network. And whenever you’re attractive within a network, whenever you add value to the network, you will get something back. That’s just the way networks function.

Sattelberger: Does this apply to companies as well?

Kruse: Yes. And with it we quickly come to the point where we have to discuss applicable business models and how to allocate the capital gained.

Sattelberger: OK, the question of value and countervalue. There too I think that initial enthusiasm …

Kruse: … can pretty soon have the dampers put on it.

Sattelberger: Yes.

Kruse: That’s right! But even so, there are still certain basic rules in the network which can prevent this happening. One of them, for instance is “tit for tat”. This means that if my trust has once been misused in the network, then I will withdraw from that network. This is the highest damage I can inflict on it – no matter if I act as an individual or a company. An almost allergic reaction.

Sattelberger: Which shows that work with and in the network is really work that carries a great deal of dignity.

Kruse: Carries dignity and confers it on both sides. In a network you really have to be very straight forward and very open, and you simply have to bear in mind that withdrawal from a network really is a hard hitting penalty. Normally you’d always ask yourself where your power in the network comes from. The powerful person in a network is the one who feeds in, who adds value, who creates benefits, it’s usually not the person with the money.  
In networks the people with the real power are the consumers and customers – it’s no longer providers of goods and services. And the same is true in companies.

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In the next few years we’ll most likely see that employees will become a lot more aware of the power they hold. Power is no longer structured in hierarchies from the top down; it’s something that employees want to share in too. And if the company doesn’t let them participate or fails to nurture the right kind of environment – well, their names might still be on the payroll but they are blocking out company ideas. And who’s going to pick up the bill for the damage? At the end of the day it will be the company itself.

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we_magazine:
This seems to turn corporate culture into a key strategic issue for the company …

Kruse: It sure does! Strategically speaking, creating and building such a corporate culture is absolutely crucial because it has been elevated to a new level of importance by the advent of networks.

Sattelberger: Enterprise 2.0 deals with hierarchies and power, informality and relationships, collaboration and openness. In my opinion these are all key values in this “new” corporate culture which haven’t reached their full potential in today’s business world. What we’re seeing now is only their first budding.

Kruse: Basically this “new” type of corporate culture needs to nurture two drivers. Firstly, it needs to provide space to manage creative processes, to share knowledge and thus extract the maximum amount of creativity from the system that’s possible this side of self-exploitation.
And secondly, it must address the fact that we’re not going to get one step further with purely competitive models. In the next few years we’re going to see totally new forms of cooperation between companies, new forms of both horizontal and vertical cooperation. Cooperation has taken on a new dimension of meaning for companies, and they are now investigating new ways of vertical and horizontal working partnerships.
To give you an example, integration between manufacturers and suppliers is now being completely re-engineered. Beforehand the model used to apply that buying from suppliers put the manufacturer under pressure and that you extracted maximum added value through the negotiation of good prices. NOWA-DAYS this is no longer enough. Nowadays we are in a situation where people realize that they have to work together to open up new markets. And this realization all of a sudden is breaking down company boundaries. Companies are ready to collaborate in a totally new and highly dynamic way.

Sattelberger: But then what we’re basically speaking about is that…

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… the way in which we shape competition has developed from monopolistic types of competition – swallowing competitors as we’ve seen in the recent waves of mergers and acquisitions – into a highly cooperative type of competition of the sort we see with strategic alliances and networks.

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Kruse: Yes. I think that’s exactly the kind of direction it’s taking. New technologies are a vital factor in drastically reducing the costs of cooperation. We now have the technological opportunities to drive this kind of cooperation forward. Beforehand, it used to be much more cost intensive and so it was always much cheaper to stay securely within company boundaries. In other words, cooperation is set to be a key competitive factor – however absurd this may sound at first hearing.

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